By Judy Brown, a member of the Rotary Club of Parys, South Africa
Raising funds is crucial when you are faced with rebuilding a club. I am an avid runner and enjoy a holiday home in a beautiful area of South Africa, so I decided organizing a race would be a perfect fit.
My partner, Peter Watson, has been a Rotarian for many years. I never joined Rotary in the United Kingdom, where we live. But when we bought our second home in Parys, South Africa, in 2011, we became aware the local Rotary club was in decline. I decided to join and immediately became secretary. Jim Thomas, an American married to a South African, became president. With the two other remaining members, we set out to rebuild the club.
Parys is about an hour’s drive south of Johannesburg, named after Paris because of the beautiful Vaal River that flows through it. It is the gateway to the Vredefort Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest meteor impact site. Erosion of the crater has created an area of great natural beauty, fantastic for all outdoor sports.
Our first event, the 5 kilometer and 10 kilometer Valentines Day runs are now held annually, with profits split equally between a program for special needs children at the local primary school and our Rotary club. It is held on a golf course on an island in the Vaal River. Runners and their families can picnic after the run.
Our second event, the Vaal Eden Rhino Challenge, has four trail runs which take place over two days in two different wildlife parks with over 25 different species including rhinos, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, waterbucks and springboks. We held it for the first time in 2014 and over 250 South African runners took part, many running on both days. Peter was given unrestricted access to the wildlife parks to set the routes. Runners World South Africa will feature it as their Race of the Month for March.
I am now promoting a holiday to coincide with the run with help from our international agent, 2:09 Events Ltd, run by Mike Gratton, winner of the London Marathon in 1983. All profits from the holiday will go to the Rotary Club of Parys for local causes.
Our latest venture is park-run, a free 5 kilometer run/walk every Saturday. There are 1.3 million park runners worldwide and over 150,000 in South Africa. It’s not a fundraiser, but a great community event bringing young, old, fast, and slow together to enjoy exercise. We have a beautiful route along the banks of the Vaal River. Rotarians have been instrumental in getting our local park-run going.